Language Tech

How to Type Accents Faster: Use the International Keyboard

I thought I’d share a tip for any other Duolingo fans struggling with typing accents in timed practice drills: Use the International Keyboard.

Don’t worry, it won’t change where the letters are on your keyboard or change your system language, it just adds accents when you type certain key combinations. For example, if you type the apostrophe (‘) then press “e”, it will display “é”. Pretty simple and fast.

Changing your keyboard settings

It sounds like it’s a huge pain and scary, but it’s worth the trouble to set up if you’re serious about using your target language. Below are instructions for setup on Windows and Mac:

Keyboard Tips

Use the space after the special keys whenever you don’t need an accent

Since  keys like the apostrophe and double quotes are reserved for those key combinations, you’ll need to get used to hitting the space bar after typing them to get those characters to display.

If You’re Really Serious…

Change the keyboard icon to another color

Keyboard Icon in Windows

This is an easy way to let you know which keyboard layout is active before you start.

  1. In Windows 7, right-click on the keyboard icon in the task bar, then select Settings. The Text Services and Input Languages window will open.
  2. Select United States-International in the list, then click the Properties button.
  3. Click the “Change Icon” button, then select one of the colored keyboard icons. Click OK, then OK again to close the window and apply the change.

Now if you click the keyboard in the Language Bar, you’ll see that the US International keyboard has a different icon. Whenever it’s active or not you’ll know at a glance.

Set a keyboard shortcut to switch to US International


Switching windows sometimes means that you’ll be set back to the default keyboard. Ctrl+0 is a good pick to quickly switch to US International.

  1. Right-click on the Language Bar, then select Settings.
  2. Click the tab for Advanced Key Settings.
  3. Select “To English (United States) – United States International“, then click “Change Key Sequence” button.
  4. Check the box for “Enable Key Sequence“. The default is Ctrl+o, but you can change this to any combination you want. Click OK.
  5. Click OK again to apply your changes and close the settings window.

Now give it a try and impress yourself and your friends. 🙂